Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is riding a red wave of his own, no doubt in part due to his political stunt involving the 50 migrants he manipulated into taking flights to Martha’s Vineyard on Sept. 14.
Despite his misuse of taxpayer money intended for coronavirus relief to fund these flights, the egregious price that was paid ($1.5 million, according to court documents), and the fact that these migrants weren’t even in Florida at the time of the stunt, DeSantis won an overwhelming victory in his re-election campaign for governor.
And as former President Donald Trump sinks lower and lower — the Jan. 6 Congressional committee recommending that charges be brought against him for his role in the insurrection and the ongoing investigation into the top-secret documents found at Mar-a-Lago — DeSantis has emerged as the Republican frontrunner for 2024. (We don’t want to think about that election yet, but we would be foolish not to pay attention.)
Here’s what the New York Times wrote about DeSantis the morning after the Nov. 8 election: “Right now it looks as if DeSantis will be able to sell himself as the Republican who overperformed amid general underperformance, the only Republican who fully exploited the openings the Biden Democrats gave the G.O.P., the Republican who actually achieved the kind of realigning victory that Trumpism’s theoreticians kept promising was just around the corner.”
Trump has already announced that he’s running in 2024, perhaps a pre-emptive strike because he knew that his role on Jan. 6 was likely going to turn into criminal charges. He has also threatened to spill the dirt on DeSantis should the Florida governor decide to run for president.
What DeSantis did on Sept. 14 won’t lose him any votes among the Republican party.
And it certainly hasn’t been much of a deterrent to others, as the exploitation of migrants continues. On Christmas Eve, cold-hearted Texas Gov. Greg Abbott sent three busloads of migrants to Washington, D.C., where they were dropped off in the vicinity of where Vice President Kamala Harris lives.
Criminal investigations continue into what transpired in San Antonio on Sept. 14, and the misleading tactics used to lure the migrants to board planes bound for Martha’s Vineyard — a stunt filmed for the Fox News audience to “own the libs.”
As we continue to remind the national electorate that DeSantis was behind this taxpayer-funded exploitation, we also have to continue to correct the lies spouted by DeSantis, Abbott, and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and their followers, who persist in saying that Martha’s Vineyard turned the migrants away. Months later, we continue to get the occasional tweet or email from DeSantis supporters claiming that Vineyarders are hypocrites, with colorful language folded into their comments. They use the word “deported,” when what really happened is that the 50 individuals were treated with compassion and care as dozens of volunteers came to their aid, a church was opened to provide respite, and meals were donated by the Island’s restaurants.
Some of the migrants, even after being moved to a temporary shelter at Joint Base Cape Cod, have returned to the Island to live. Others remain on Cape Cod, or have gone to other cities where they have family or friends ready to assist them in finding work and permanent housing.
But this is not a party that ever lets facts get in the way of a way to ramp up their base.
We understand that there is an immigration crisis, but DeSantis, Abbott, and Cruz aren’t interested in being part of the solution. They’re interested in exploiting the issue for political gain.
We can — and must — play a role in continuing to remind the electorate that these politicians used vulnerable men, women, and children as political pawns. That’s something to be condemned, not celebrated.